The Alienware M11x R3 is the third version of the world's smallest and lightest gaming notebook. Equipped with your choice of the latest second generation Intel Core i5 or Core i7 processors and Nvidia GeForce GT 540M graphics, this high-performance 11-inch notebook is arguably in a class all by itself. Keep reading to see if the latest M11x gaming laptop is worth your money.
Our review unit of the Alienware M11x R3 features the following specifications:
Last year, the Alienware M11x and its updated "Revision 2" (M11x R2) version both received the NotebookReview.com Editors' Choice Award for delivering a great combination of build quality, performance, and battery life at a reasonable price. Dell's Alienware team regularly commented on the fact that the M11x was the best-selling Alienware notebook of 2010. It's no surprise then that the engineers at Alienware were eager to improve upon their success with the Alienware M11x R3.
If you're familiar with the original M11x and M11x R2, then you'll surely notice that the M11x R3 is virtually identical to its older siblings. Likewise, anyone familiar with the other gaming notebooks in the Alienware family should instantly recognize the angular design, "Stealth Black" soft touch finish and AlienFX LED lighting that have become the hallmark of Alienware design. In many ways the designers at Alienware tried to make this 11-inch notebook look like a tiny twin of the 15-inch M15x or the 17-inch M17x.
That design descision (to make the M11x look like other Alienware gaming notebooks) has probably single-handedly contributed to the "love it" or "hate it" attitude toward the M11x that many people have expressed in our discussion forums. On one hand, you immediately recognize that this is a gaming notebook designed to play games and have fun. On the other hand, hardcore gamers recognize that you can't fit extremely high-end gaming hardware inside an 11-inch notebook and they criticize the M11x for being not being a "real" gaming notebook.
Despite those divided opinions, the design of the M11x carries the same boxy shape as other Alienware laptops. Most laptops have a tapered edge that starts out thick near the center of the notebook and gets thinner as you move to the outside edge. The chassis of the M11x R3 (like previous M11x notebooks) doesn't have that tapered edge because Alienware engineers needed all that space for the discrete graphics card, extra cooling, and the integrated battery. The integrated battery is also something to keep in mind when talking about the thickness of this notebook. The M11x might seem thick with its height of 1.29 inches, but many 11-inch netbook alternatives with extended life batteries are actually thicker than the Alienware M11x R3.
Speaking of the bottom of the notebook, the M11x is likewise stunning even from underneath. The bottom panel is largely flat and smooth with speaker grill holes for the downward-firing stereo speakers, the cooling fan intake, and battery meter. If you're interested in upgrading the internal components on your M11x you'll be happy to learn that all user-serviceable parts are located under a single access panel on the bottom of the notebook.
Ports and Features
The selection of ports on the M11x R3 is nearly identical to the port layout on the M11x R2. Keep in mind that your external display connections are the DisplayPort and the HDMI port ... no VGA here for those old monitors and projectors. The Alienware M11x R3 includes two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port, FireWire, a 3-in-1 media card slot, Gigabit Ethernet, all of the standard audio jacks, and the previously mentioned HDMI and DisplayPort connections.
You don't get a built-in optical drive with the M11x and we're not upset about it. Not only would a DVD or Blu-ray drive have taken up space and made the notebook heavier and more power hungry, but most consumers are downloading content rather than using disks. Alienware even pre-installs STEAM on your M11x when you place your order. For those of you who aren't familiar with Steam, it's an online store for PC games. Using the Steam software you can browse the online Steam Store and purchase almost any PC game which you then download and install on your PC.
Alienware still includes a DVD restore disk with the M11x rather than including a bootable USB flash drive or SD card. You can buy an optional external DVD drive at the time of purchase, but anyone who doesn't will be unable to use the restore disk unless they already own an external optical drive. Come on, Dell, stop using DVDs with notebooks that don't have DVD drives.
On a happier note, Alienware is finally using USB 3.0 on the Alienware M11x R3 so owners can connect high-speed external storage to this notebook. With that said, let's take a quick tour around the M11x R3:
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